Posts in Category "General"

March 7, 2013

Andrew Kirkpatrick to Co-Chair WCAG WG

It’s hard to measure the impact the W3C/WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (WCAG WG) has had on web accessibility. The WCAG 2.0 standard is the basis for a growing number of policies worldwide, providing a common reference for web content that adapts to users of all levels of ability.

Andrew Kirkpatrick, Group Product Manager for Accessibility, has been offered and accepted the role of co-chair of the WCAG WG, along with Joshue O’Connor of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland. Andrew and Joshue will take the place of Gregg Vanderheiden, who has chaired the WCAG WG since its inception, and Loretta Guarino-Reid, who played a pivotal role shepherding WCAG 2.0 to its final status as a W3C Recommendation in 2008. Both Loretta and Gregg will continue to participate in the WCAG WG, and we at Adobe Accessibility extend our gratitude to them for their years of effort moving the field of accessibility forward.

Andrew’s role will include the rechartering of the working group, to define goals for the working group and the WCAG standard in the coming years, as well as to reflect its continued development of accessibility techniques and other supporting materials. Andrew would like to hear from people from all different backgrounds on how the WCAG WG can help advance web accessibility overall. Apart from his Twitter account, @awkawk, leaving a comment here is one way to reach him, or you can submit a comment to the WCAG working group via the online form.

8:39 PM Permalink
February 1, 2013

Adobe & Greg Pisocky: 20 Years

Today we celebrate the 20 years of service at Adobe by accessibility team member Greg Pisocky. If you’ve ever worked on making a PDF document accessible chances are you’ve read or used resources Greg helped develop, and many of you are lucky enough to have worked have worked more closely with him. Greg has worked on accessibility at Adobe since the late 90’s, and through his work on Adobe’s government sales team was instrumental in the introduction of accessibility into Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. Accessibility was introduced as a feature in Adobe Acrobat 5.0 in May of 2001, and Greg’s work with our customers and the Acrobat engineering team helped make this work happen.

Since then, Greg has advocated internally for improvements and worked with external customers to promote the use of the accessibility features in Acrobat, helped countless end users with disabilities understand the accessibility support features available in Adobe Reader and other Adobe tools, and contributed substantially to efforts to help other tools such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe FrameMaker create accessible content. Greg has also worked for many years to make the PDF/UA accessibility standard for PDF documents a reality, contributed to the Authoring Tools Working Group at W3C-WAI, and engaged with the Section 508 refresh committee (TEITAC) on behalf of Adobe.

Comments from colleagues and customers speak volumes about Greg’s impact.

Victoria Richards, Government Customer
I met Greg Pisocky for the first time at an IDEAs Accessibility Forum in Washington DC. I immediately appreciated his extensive knowledge about the issues and his honesty about the ability and limitations to solve accessibility problems. Greg was instrumental in giving me a voice with the Adobe Acrobat team. He is an invaluable source of knowledge and ideas which have greatly improved the workflows to create accessible PDFs. Greg, thank you for helping me improve the products I create for people with visual impairments.

Noha Edell, Sr. Solutions Consultant, Adobe Systems Inc.
Greg Pisocky, a juggernaut of the movement of accessibility, a quintessential liaison between customers, product management, and engineering, and a relentless advocate who dedicates his life to improve the lives of the less fortunate. Greg understands the importance of accessibility and the needs of the customers working with it. His steady contributions to the products teams helped propel Adobe’s advancements in accessibility across products. Happy 20th Anniversary, Greg, it is an absolute honor to work with you.

Duff Johnson, Chair of the US Committee for PDF/UA
Greg led the charge on PDF/UA since the beginning, and showed me the ropes of tagged PDF. Greg combines a gentle demeanor with a fierce passion for accessibility and for his work. Every government agency in DC owes much of its successful use of Acrobat to Greg Pisocky.

Loretta Guarino Reid, Adobe Acrobat Engineer (emerita)
Greg Pisocky was one of the earliest champions of PDF accessibility at Adobe. He was a great partner to accessibility engineering, helping us to understand the needs and priorities of our government customers, and giving them information about new accessibility features in Acrobat. I loved working with Greg and I’m grateful for his part in the PDF accessibility story.

Those of us on the accessibility team appreciate Greg’s knowledge and valuable contributions – thanks Greg, and congratulations!

12:08 PM Permalink
December 3, 2012

Proposal for a new directive on EU web accessibility

Today the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (more commonly known as ‘DG Connect’) released a new proposal for a directive on “Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites”. The proposed directive will require twelve categories of EU public sector websites which provide essential public services to EU citizens to comply with W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 at the AA level. The proposal also makes clear that this level of accessibility support is desirable for all public sector websites.

Adobe supports efforts to provide clear and globally-harmonized standards for accessibility, and applauds DG Connect for referencing the WCAG 2.0 standard which not only represents a high bar for accessibility standards, but that is being incorporated into policy in many countries around the world including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and the USA. This helps ensure that vendors like Adobe and web developers around the world don’t need to learn different accessibility standards in order to ensure that their tools and content promote and meet accessibility requirements.

The goal of ensuring that these services are accessible by 2015 is also manifestly the right thing to do as all people need access to government information and services. It will take time to approve this proposal and for individual EU member countries to incorporate the new law into national policy, but this is an important proposal that will help clarify what needs to be done to provide access to all users. Adobe supports this proposal in principle and in practice with our product offerings such as Dreamweaver and CQ which help web authors address accessibility, as well as our tools for creating accessible PDF documents and providing access to video content delivered on the web. More information about these products is available at the Adobe Accessibility Resource Center.

We commend the DG Connect for helping move accessibility forward in Europe. We encourage those interested to read the proposal, now available on DG Connect’s Digital Agenda web site.

4:03 AM Permalink
June 28, 2012

Ruling on Accessibility and the ADA

The United States District Court in Massachusetts ruled June 19 on a motion to dismiss a suit brought against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and others. The suit is about Netflix not providing enough captions for videos delivered via the “Watch Instantly” site, but the ruling addresses the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for electronic accessibility in general, not just limited to access issues for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. The dispute on the applicability of the ADA to the internet and electronic media has been brewing for several years, with cases against the Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Authority, Southwest Airlines, and Target all part of the long-term debate. While the charge of judicial activism has been leveled against this decision, supporting precedents seem to exist which support the judge’s ruling, and the Department of Justice’s statement of interest provides a clear view of the DOJ’s position in support of this decision. The implications of this ruling are significant, but also fit well within the context of additional policy work in the US and abroad.

A key issue which is core to the debate is whether a web site or any other internet-delivered service can be regarded as “a place of public accommodation”. In the Netflix case, the judge ruled that the website delivering movies to the customer qualifies as a public accommodation. Specifically, the judge indicated:

Netflix, which operates its website and Watch Instantly service through computer servers and the Internet, is a public accommodation subject to title III of the ADA, even if it has no physical structure where customers come to access its services.

Establishing electronic resources as a place of public accommodation means more than a requirement for captioning, it also means that other users with disabilities need to have access to the information and services provided. Electronic content can readily be made accessible to users with disabilities, whether the user is deaf, blind, unable to use their hands, or has a variety of other disabilities or combinations thereof.

A growing policy emphasis on accessibility

This ruling comes at a time when there is greater evidence of expanding support for accessibility globally as well as within the United States.

The court made reference to a Department of Justice effort to release policy guidance to clarify that the ADA does apply to electronic services such as the web – the DOJ issued an advance notice of a ruling on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. This update to the ADA proposed to apply the W3C WCAG 2.0 specification as the standard for accessibility, which includes requirements for video accessibility such as captioning. The court writes:

Contrary to Defendant’s unsupported assertions, the Department’s ongoing regulatory developments support that Netflix is a public accommodation subject to title III of the ADA. The Department is currently developing regulations specifically addressing the accessibility of goods and services offered via the web by entities covered by the ADA. The fact that the regulatory process is not yet complete in no way indicates that web services are not already covered by title III.

In addition to the DOJ effort, President Obama signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and last month sent the Convention to the Senate to be ratified. In doing so, the US would be committing to “take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems” (UNCRPD, Article 9). Separate from the UNCRPD, the United States Access Board is preparing to release updated standards for section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which will likely also align with WCAG 2.0 criteria, and the FCC recently published regulations for access to broadcast video (not including non-broadcast video, user-generated video, or theatrical movies), including regulations which address access to the video when delivered via the internet after or concurrent with the broadcast delivery.

Outside of the United States, 152 other countries have signed (and 115 have ratified) the UNCRPD, and efforts to expand existing and develop new policies are well underway.

Why do we care about accessibility?

It isn’t hard to find opposition to this ruling (1, 2), but the most important point remains – that people with disabilities deserve equal access to information and services, whether provided via the internet or in a physical location. Access equals opportunity and self-reliance, whether for a person seeking accessible educational materials to help prepare for employment, accessible video for entertainment and social connections with others, or access to necessary goods and services without needing to depend on the help of others to arrange or obtain them. Access leads to employment, and active participation in society. Accessibility has costs, although less when considered early in any process and less at scale, but whatever the costs of providing access, the cost of not providing it is in the long run greater for society.

No major web sites, applications, or mobile apps are perfectly accessible, including Adobe’s. But Adobe and many others are making continual improvements and pushing toward greater access. We’ve worked on not only our own products but on accessibility standards and policies in the United States and around the world, and continue to seek ways to enable our customers to support accessibility with greater ease and effectiveness on their part. There is more work to do, but we know why we’re doing it and are committed to continue working for equal access for all

Note: I am not a lawyer, so anything in this post that sounds like a legal interpretation should not be construed as actual legal advice, just as the considered opinion of an interested party.

4:16 PM Permalink
May 20, 2012

Adobe Support for Open Source Assistive Technology

Adobe continues our support for NVAccess development of the NVDA screen reader in 2012, and with that funding we are supporting a number of priorities designed to help NVAccess developers continue to offer an up-to-date tool for end users as well as developers seeking to provide accessible applications and web sites. Included in the list of priorities is support for ongoing improvements to NVDA’s ability to interact with PDF documents, AIR applications, and ebooks read in Adobe Digital Editions, and for general HTML and ARIA improvements.

For PDF specifically, we recognize the value of NVDA supporting the upcoming PDF/UA standard (ISO 14289) and have agreed with NVAccess that the PDF-focused portion of the work should be focused on enabling NVDA to become a PDF/UA compliant assistive technology.

Past improvements to NVDA’s support for PDF have brought significant benefits for NVDA users reading PDF documents. These past improvements were not designed to focus on PDF/UA compliance, but most of the improvements serve to accomplish compliance and dovetail nicely with current efforts focused on the new standard. The work to make NVDA compliant with PDF/UA will not be able to be completed in the current year, as the scope of work is beyond what can be completed within the current year’s funding, but we expect to be able to provide details about progress in the coming months. As support for PDF/UA is an important goal, we will seek ways to offer support to NVAccess in future years also.

We are almost halfway through the year for this funding and NVAccess developers have made continual improvements – we encourage screen reader users and accessibility-interested developers to download the latest release of NVDA to read ebooks, test web pages, read PDF documents, and more. NVDA is a great tool and Adobe is pleased to help support its development.

Update: We should also clarify that our support for NVDA does not come at the expense of support for other assistive technologies. Tools such as Claro Read, JAWS, Supernova, Window-Eyes, ZoomText, and many more are important tools that users depend on and we will continue to work with the vendors of these great tools.

9:43 PM Permalink
May 7, 2012

WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA

Harmonization of accessibility standards is a primary goal for Adobe which is why for many years Adobe has worked on the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) working group – our participation was driven by a desire to help define a WCAG 2.0 standard which would be useful for web content that Adobe tools are involved with the authoring or display of, including PDF, Flash, HTML, and more. There is great benefit for developers, authors, and end users when there is an agreed on standard for what constitutes an accessible experience, and it is encouraging to see that WCAG 2.0 is regarded as the primary standard for web accessibility and is referenced by national governments around the world. However, there is more to achieving accessibility than the normative text of WCAG 2.0.

In 2004, Adobe and AIIM started the PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) activity with the intent of producing standards specific to PDF authoring and presentation which ensure that conforming PDF (ISO 32000-1) files are accessible and usable to all, including users who rely on assistive technology. Today, PDF/UA is ISO 14289-1, a “Final Draft International Standard (FDIS)”, expected to be published later in 2012.

We’ve received many questions about the relationship between PDF/UA and WCAG 2.0. WCAG 2.0 was developed as a technology-independent standard and provides individual (normative) success criteria for accessibility which are general enough to apply across technologies. The W3C’s WCAG working group also provides a growing collection of advisory (non-normative) techniques to offer technology-specific guidance, including a growing set of techniques for HTML, CSS, Scripting, PDF, Flash, and more. Beyond these techniques, developers need to conduct additional research to ensure that the content or applications they create meet the WCAG 2.0 success criteria – for example, a Java developer looking to offer a compliant applet will not find techniques on the W3C site at this time, but may be able to meet WCAG 2.0 if they correctly follow guidance provided elsewhere and evaluate the resulting applet against the WCAG success criteria.

PDF developers need this type of clarity on how to meet WCAG 2.0, and the PDF techniques, while useful, do not presently represent a complete set which encompass all technical requirements for accessibility in all PDF documents. This is where PDF/UA provides help. PDF/UA provides normative technical specifications for the use of the PDF format, defining proper structure and syntax to enable reliable access. This includes identification of necessary tagging structures, how to specify alternative text for images, how to ensure correct Unicode mappings for character glyphs, and many other file, page and object-level specifications, as well as how Reader applications and assistive technologies can fully process PDF/UA conforming files to maximize accessibility.

PDF/UA defines the technical specifications to enable PDF documents to meet WCAG 2.0, but WCAG 2.0 has additional requirements which require an author’s attention. The areas where WCAG 2.0 has additional requirements include time-based media (guideline 1.2), scripting and actions (e.g. success criteria 3.2.1 and 3.2.2), and certain types of content (e.g. success criteria 2.4.4). For these and other additional requirements, the W3C’s technique documents (both general and PDF-specific techniques) provide guidance for authors interested in complying with WCAG 2.0.

PDF/UA clarifies and simplifies the PDF-specific technical requirements to meet WCAG 2.0. Adobe fully supports PDF/UA and intends to use and promote it in our PDF authoring tools. Adobe also plans to support the conforming Reader requirements, which are part of PDF/UA. Authors using Adobe tools such as Adobe Acrobat will be enabled to support PDF/UA as a first and major step toward compliance with WCAG 2.0.

9:00 AM Permalink
January 3, 2012

WCAG 2.0 Techniques for PDF

Authors looking for additional guidance on how to meet the W3C WCAG 2.0 for PDF documents can now look to the W3C techniques repository for additional guidance. Techniques for PDF authored over the past two years since the release of the last update to the WCAG techniques (which included techniques for Flash) are now part of the larger collection of techniques. View the full set of WCAG 2.0 techniques or view PDF techniques on their own.

These techniques provide a clear path for demonstrating that a PDF document can meet the most current accessibility standard from the W3C.

As with the Flash techniques for WCAG 2.0 and techniques for all other technologies, the PDF techniques are presented as examples which the WCAG Working Group viewed as sufficient to meet WCAG 2.0 success criteria, not as the only way to meet any given success criteria. Authors may discover a new way to address a success criteria, in a way not yet covered in the existing techniques, and be able to demonstrate why it is sufficient. The techniques offer a collection of strategies that have been reviewed by the working group, but the techniques collections for all technologies are works in progress as there are always additional ways to address success criteria.

The table below provides a listing of the WCAG level A and AA success criteria and the PDF-specific and General techniques that authors can employ to meet success criteria. It is worth noting that not all success criteria for WCAG 2.0 have technology-specific techniques. For example 1.3.3 (Sensory characteristics) has only general techniques, and in this case and similar ones I reference the relevant general techniques section. In some cases there are relevant general techniques as well as PDF-specific techniques and for these both are linked.

Update: I neglected to acknowledge the hard work of Mary Utt from The Paciello Group on the PDF techniques initially, but Mary was a tremendous help in moving this work forward and I offer many thanks. Many people on the WCAG working group also worked very hard to help make these techniques reach this final stage. Thanks to all!

Please send general comments, comments or questions on the techniques, or suggestions for new techniques.

WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria and Applicable Techniques for PDF
Success Criteria Level Techniques
1.1.1 Non-text Content A
1.2.1 Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded) A
1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded) A
1.2.3 Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded) A
1.2.4 Captions (Live) AA
1.2.5 Audio Description (Prerecorded) AA
1.3.1 Info and Relationships A
1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence A
1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics A
1.4.1 Use of Color A
1.4.2 Audio Control A
1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum) AA
1.4.4 Resize text AA
1.4.5 Images of text AA
2.1.1 Keyboard A
2.1.2 No Keyboard Trap A
2.2.1 Timing Adjustable A
2.2.2 Pause, Stop, Hide A
2.3.1 Three Flashes or Below Threshold A
2.4.1 Bypass Blocks A
2.4.2 Page Titled A
2.4.3 Focus Order A
2.4.4 Link Purpose (In Context) A
2.4.5 Multiple ways AA
2.4.6 Headings and Labels AA
2.4.7 Focus Visible AA
3.1.1 Language of page A
3.1.2 Language of parts AA
3.2.1 On Focus A
3.2.2 On Input A
3.2.3 Consistent Navigation AA
3.2.4 Consistent Identification AA
3.3.1 Error Identification A
3.3.2 Labels or Instructions A
3.3.3 Error Suggestion AA
3.3.4 Error Prevention (Legal, Financial, Data) AA
4.1.1 Parsing A
  • Not Applicable: PDF is not implemented using markup languages
4.1.2 Name, Role, Value A
10:49 PM Permalink
July 20, 2011

Books for everyone – an accessible Digital Editions for Windows and Mac

I’m delighted to share the news that Adobe Digital Editions 1.8 is available on Adobe Labs and that at long last this version provides improved support for accessibility. Digital Editions 1.8 has enhanced keyboard support, provides additional text magnification, support for high-contrast mode color-switching, and interoperability with the UIAutomation accessibility API to allow screen readers to read ebooks.

Some views of Digital Editions 1.8:

Digital Editions 1.8 will allow users, including screen reader users, to check out books from public libraries that use Adobe Content Server for book Digital Rights Management (DRM). In the United States, many libraries use Overdrive but have needed to direct users to audio books instead of EPUB books. Now, taking out an EPUB book from the library can work for many more people.

Buying books at many popular online vendors is also possible. EPUB Books purchased at Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, ebooks.com, Waterstones, and more can be read with Digital Editions 1.8. Naturally, the book store needs to be accessible also, which is unfortunately not universally true (e.g. at Barnes and Noble the “Buy now” button is not labeled, maddeningly), but some are.

A couple of words about screen reader support. Digital Editions 1.8 is built using WPF and utilizes Microsoft’s UIAutomation accessibility API. Currently, JAWS users will be able to read books successfully. Update: JAWS 12 and newer future versions are able to support UIAutomation, so JAWS 12 is required. Earlier versions are not expected to correctly interact with Digital Editions 1.8. Other screen readers that support UIAutomation such as Window-Eyes 7.5 and NVDA are able to successfully read the menus and other aspects of the application, with the exception of the book content. This is a complex control and we are talking with vendors to ensure that the book content is able to be read by more tools than JAWS. Mac users can use VoiceOver to read books on the Mac version of Digital Editions 1.8.

There have many people pushing and encouraging us to improve Digital Editions and I thank everyone for their feedback and advice. I’d like to recognize and thank a few people in particular for engaging with us to provide feedback on early builds and patiently waiting for the release of this tool – from the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Marc Maurer, Anne Taylor, and Tony Olivero; from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Richard Orme, Steve Griffiths, and several testers; from the American Foundation for the Blind, Paul Schroeder and Darren Burton; and George Kerscher from DAISY and IDPF. I am certain that each of these people will have positive and negative things to say about this version; there is additional work to do to make Digital Additions more accessible to more people, but I believe that this is a solid first step and that is due to the hard work of the development team and the advice and guidance of these people and others.

We’d like to give a few people an easy opportunity to try out reading an accessible EPUB book with Digital Editions 1.8, so we are holding a quick drawing for gift cards to online bookstores. You can enter the contest here. We’ll award 30 gift cards on Monday July 25 at noon Eastern US time.

We’re interested in your feedback, so enjoy your books and please send feedback!

9:12 AM Permalink
March 11, 2011

Adobe at CSUN 2011 Conference

The California State University at Northridge’s Conference on Disability is going on March 16-18, 2011, and Adobe is offering a number of sessions that we hope people will find interesting and informative, as well as offering opportunities to talk directly to Adobe’s accessibility team and product team members.

The event will feature several sessions and events that I want to provide some details for. Here’s our schedule of events:

Wednesday, March 16

Thursday, March 17

Friday, March 18

The following is not an Adobe session, but it is introducing a valuable resource in the form of a course on accessible Flash development, developed jointly by the Department of Veterans Affairs and SSB BART Group.

Adobe will have several people at CSUN and will be attending the TweetUp as well as being available to talk between or after sessions. Please come introduce yourself and ask questions and share your thoughts.

4:25 PM Permalink
February 18, 2011

PDF Accessibility Training for Australian Government

Adobe is running a series of training in Australia the first week of March to help Australian Government employees understand how to create accessible PDF documents. The trainings are being held in Canberra at the National Museum of Australia, but will be recorded and made available online after the sessions (probably with a 1-2 week delay in order to have the recordings captioned and posted). We are running these sessions in conjunction with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).

I’m delivering two different presentations (twice each):

  • PDF Accessibility for Everyone – suitable for a wide range of user knowledge of accessibility, focusing on common authoring pathways
  • PDF Accessibility for Techo’s – an advanced session for people with good knowledge of accessibility

More information about the sessions, and registration for attendance, is now available.

I’m looking forward to these sessions and helping people understand how to create PDF documents that meet WCAG 2.0 and are easily used by people with disabilities.

4:08 PM Permalink